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Uncowed Qatar to meet milk needs in 2018 amid crisis

DOHA: Qatar will be self-sufficient in milk by next July, thanks to boycott-busting cows flown in to boost supplies after neighboring Gulf states severed links with Doha, a firm said yesterday. Nearly six months after the eruption of a bitter political crisis which has rocked the region, the man in charge of the soon-to-be 14,000 animals, said Qatar would be able to meet all its own milk needs by the middle of next year. “We should be self-sufficient by June/July,” John Dore, chief executive officer of Baladna Livestock Production, told AFP. The Irishman said: “Our aim is quite basically to be part of the national effort, to put our finger up to the Saudis. We don’t need you, we can do it ourselves.”

He said the total cost of flying in the cows from Germany and the United States, building milking parlors at the site 80 km north of Doha, and production was three billion Qatari riyals ($825 million). Qatar was pushed center-stage into the region’s worst political crisis for years when on June 5 neighbors Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain as well as Egypt cut ties with the gas-rich emirate. The countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and fostering ties with Saudi Arabia’s great regional rival, Shiite-dominated Iran, allegations that Doha denies.

One immediate impact of the crisis was the need for Qatar to find alternative food supplies as all exports of food from those countries in conflict with the emirate halted. And its only land border – with Saudi Arabia – was closed. Before the crisis, Qatar largely relied on dairy imports from Saudi Arabia, especially milk. Qatar, with a population of 2.7 million, hurriedly turned to other countries for food supplies, including Turkey, Iran and Morocco.

Within weeks of the crisis starting, Doha announced it was flying in cows from around the world, and announced plans to build a major food processing and storage facility at the newly opened Hamad Port. The first 165 cows were flown in on July 11. “At the moment, we have roughly 3,400 cows… the rest coming in over the next 10 days, that will bring it up to 4,000,” Dore said. By next February, he added, there will be 14,000 Holstein cows able to produce nearly 400 tonnes of milk per day, enough to meet Qatar’s needs. Dore, 57, said the cows would also make the 2022 football World Cup host self-sufficient in beef. And he added the country was now looking at extending self-sufficiency to other livestock, including poultry. – AFP

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